Organizational Affiliation: Perkins School of Theology; Southern Methodist University
How did you get started in ethnodoxology?
I had been noticing the appearance of some non-western hymns in selected hymnals. When God opened the door for me to substitute for a furloughed music missionary in Nigeria in 1989 for a semester, I jumped at the chance. My five months there changed my world view and reshaped my understanding of my vocation. I was teaching in a seminary and working in a variety of churches. The Nigerian Christians taught me how to make music with people and not just for people. I also learned that music making was an entire body experience, and not just from the neck up.
What has been one of your favorite moments in ethnodoxology?
So many, but I'll stay with Nigeria. I was studying the talking drum with one of my students. In a conversation with him at the conclusion of a lesson, I asked about all the drummers I saw in the seminary. Each morning in seminary chapel a different drum ensemble would participate in the hymn singing. So, I asked my instructor, "Who is the best drummer in the seminary?" He became quiet and seemed not to know how to respond. Finally he said that my question really didn't make sense. "An individual drummer without the ensemble is nothing." This totally reoriented my understanding of music making as a community experience and not a solo performance.